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Busing death had roots in school choice plan

Published October 20, 2004

Re: School bus routes scrutinized, story, and School bus routes can be dangerous, letter, Oct. 12.

The tragic busing death of Rebecca McKinney is another product of a tremendously problematic school choice system that has created, among other things, long bus rides and general busing chaos with obvious time pressures resulting in compromised safety.

Your story indicated that the school bus routing system was in violation of the school district's own policy (the student required to cross multiple lanes of traffic) and ignored continuous parental complaints. Befuddled with more than 47,000 students to be bused and its policy to stagger bus routes through elementary, middle and high school schedules, district representative Ron Stone indifferently described the circumstances of this tragic death as "things can fall between the cracks." What kind of response is that to a family who just lost a daughter to a negligent system that ignored multiple appeals for bus stop safety?

This is more evidence that the school choice settlement was a huge mistake, and one more indication the Pinellas County School District is too large to be governed and managed efficiently by one school district.

One step to the solution of many of our school-related problems would be to divide the county into at least two different school districts; choose a mid county road as a dividing line for eight high schools on each side. While this may take some legislative and perhaps even constitutional wrangling, in these days where bullet trains and doctor/lawyer squabbles are making the ballot for constitutional amendments, surely our local state senators and representatives can figure out how to address dividing this school district into smaller districts for more efficient and common sense handling of local school matters - including a bus system ensuring the safety of our children.

-- James M. Hammond, Clearwater

School district officials must share blame for child's death

The Pinellas County School District should definitely be held responsible for the tragic death of Rebecca McKinney. This event was preventable.

Every morning I watch 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds cross Alderman Road in Palm Harbor to catch the school bus. Ever since they changed the start of school to an hour earlier, these children not only have to cross a busy road when it is still dark, but they dart across the street where there are no lights to get to the other side.

Instead of sitting behind a desk or mapping out bus routes that are convenient for you, try living in Rebecca's shoes for one day or those of the small children who have to go out before the sun comes up. Do your job in the interest of the children, not your convenience. Do what you are supposedly getting paid to do.

-- Barbara Troop, Tarpon Springs

Eliminating no-fee zones will just eliminate redevelopment

Re: Pinellas reopening "no fee" debate, story, Oct. 13.

Sheesh! And I thought Republicans were supposed to be probusiness. So why this antibusiness decision eliminating the no-fee zones?

Besides, these no-fee zones are blighted areas. That means there used to be a lot of business there and we want to get business back to where it used to be. The infrastructure support (sewers, roads, runoff, etc.) that the impact fee is supposed to pay for is already in place.

The whole point of urban redevelopment is to provide an incentive to reinvest in an area that would otherwise be too expensive to redevelop. The payoff comes from eliminating blight, squalor and crime while increasing commerce and property values - and the attendant tax revenue. Imposing an impact fee will impose an insurmountable burden and will have a chilling effect on redevelopment.

Thank God for Commissioner Ken Welch. At least he understands what should be simple arithmetic to so august a body as the County Commission. Welch wants to re-examine the issue. Perhaps he does not share his colleagues' bullheaded arrogance in insisting on standing behind a bad decision. Hopefully, Welch can prevail upon his colleagues to extend the no-fee zones.

-- Philipp Michel "Mike" Reichold, Largo

City government needs to stay out of the "homeless business'

Re: One program can't help all homeless, editorial, Oct. 6.

Mixing homeless development and downtown Clearwater redevelopment is similar to mixing oil and water. The time has come for the soup kitchen and related entities to go.

It was a major mistake to allow them to develop in that area. The adjoining and neighboring property owners are scared, frustrated and tired of the vagrants, bums, crime, stench, drugs, prostitutes, eroding property values, closed businesses and negative development.

The city promised positive action only to find an epidemic influx of homeless. Its solution: More homeless expansion in an area that is trying to draw positive economic growth and development.

Why should the taxpayers of the city of Clearwater bear the brunt of the full cost of this negative development? Government should not be in the "homeless business." As taxpayers in Pinellas County and Clearwater, we must continue to consolidate services, especially in homeless development.

A homeless compound in mid county encapsulating all homeless outreach programs, administered by a joint venture between private businesses and faith-based groups, is a positive answer. Clearwater police Chief Sid Klein and the City Council should outsource medical and all related patient care of these individuals rather than fund in-house. Can you visualize the city running a medical clinic?

Hopefully, soon an accurate count of the homeless individuals in Pinellas County can occur without bias to funding sources, job security, expansion of services with taxpayers' dollars or political gain.

Please, City Council members, help rid downtown Clearwater of this expanding infestation of vagrants. Clearwater continues to be labeled as a "homeless user friendly city."

-- Dr. Gilbert G. Jannelli, Clearwater

Billboard supporting president doesn't tell the whole story

Is it illegal to lie on a billboard?

Is it illegal to lie about a very large group of people?

Is it illegal to lie about a very large group of people and then publish that lie for thousands of people to see every single day?

These are the questions I asked myself when I saw the huge billboard on U.S. 19. Here's what it says: "The women of Florida thank President Bush for keeping our families safe."

I am a woman of Florida. I do not thank Mr. Bush for one darn thing. I believe Mr. Bush has made us less safe. Why is this lie about me and so many other women of Florida allowed to be advertised on America's highways?

This man has not done one thing for the people of the United States in these past four years. He has done everything for the corporations and the nation's wealthiest 1 percent.

I would like to know: Do the women of Florida have any recourse?

-- Beverly Schane, Largo


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[Last modified October 20, 2004, 00:17:24]

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